Minister for Agriculture and Rural Communities Damien O'Connor today announced that the medium-scale adverse event classification for the drought in parts of the country would be extended to the whole of Southland, Otago's Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago and Clutha districts.
The classification triggers additional funding of up to $130,000 for the local Rural Support Trusts and industry groups to coordinate recovery support.
O'Connor said they had been working with local farming groups, councils and Niwa to monitor how the drought had been progressing and its impact on the farming communities.
"Anticipated rain that could have provided respite just hasn't fallen in the right areas to mitigate the effects of the early hot dry summer," he said.
"Farmers have been unable to grow sufficient feed for winter, and have been using stored feed and buying in supplements for stock, as well as selling off animals.
"Some useful rain is predicted for this week, however the drought has already taken its toll on farms and will take time to recover from."
O'Connor said that while rain would allow pasture to grow, it could take a month for this to translate into feed for animals, and many are now well behind in preparing for winter.
"So the recovery assistance measures are as important as ever, even when we finally get decent rain."
The formal request for the classification was made by drought committees and rural communities yesterday in a letter to O'Connor – in which they highlighted this was an extremely unusual event for Southland.
"Organisations in the regions are gearing up to assist farmers with feed budgets, technical information and farm management, and stress management," he said.
"The early start to a hot dry summer has now taken its toll on the groundwater and rivers in the south of the country, and farmers are working hard to look after their animals in a very challenging climate."
The Minister of Revenue welcomed the activation of Inland Revenue's income equalisation discretions for this drought, and Inland Revenue will also consider hardship situations.
Farmers should contact their accountants in the first instance.
The drought was originally classified as a medium-scale adverse event in the North Island across Taranaki, western parts of Manawatu-Whanganui and Wellington, and the Grey and Buller districts of the South Island's West Coast over the Christmas period.
Significant rain had improved soil moisture in some of those areas, but recovery from the drought is an ongoing process.